Alexander I: The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon

Alexander I: The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon


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Alexander I was a ruler with high aspirations for the people of Russia. Cosseted as a young grand duke by Catherine the Great, he ascended to the throne in 1801 after the brutal assassination of his father. In this magisterial biography, Marie-Pierre Rey illuminates the complex forces that shaped Alexander’s tumultuous reign and sheds brilliant new light on the handsome ruler known to his people as "the Sphinx."
Despite an early and ambitious commitment to sweeping political reforms, Alexander saw his liberal aspirations overwhelmed by civil unrest in his own country and by costly confrontations with Napoleon, which culminated in the French invasion of Russia and the burning of Moscow in 1812. Eventually, Alexander turned back Napoleon’s forces and entered Paris a victor two years later, but by then he had already grown weary of military glory. As the years passed, the tsar who defeated Napoleon would become increasingly preoccupied with his own spiritual salvation, an obsession that led him to pursue a rapprochement between the Orthodox and Roman churches.
When in exile, Napoleon once remarked of his Russian rival: “He could go far. If I die here, he will be my true heir in Europe.” It was not to be. Napoleon died on Saint Helena and Alexander succumbed to typhus four years later at the age of forty-eight. But in this richly nuanced portrait, Rey breathes new life into the tsar who stood at the center of the political chessboard of early nineteenth-century Europe, a key figure at the heart of diplomacy, war, and international intrigue during that region’s most tumultuous years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780875807553
Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press
Publication date: 08/25/2016
Edition description: 1
Pages: 504
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Marie-Pierre Rey is professor of Russian and Soviet history at the University of Paris I (Sorbonne) and director of the Slavic Research Center. She has written De la Russie à l’Union Sovietique: La Construction de l’Empire 1462-1953 and Le Dilemme Russe: La Russie et l’Europe Occidental d’Ivan le Terrible à Boris Eltsine. An American translator of twenty years standing, Susan Emanuel has specialized in sociology, history, cultural studies, international relations, religion, and biography.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Authors Note ix

Introduction xi

Prologue 3

Part 1 The Childhood and Youth of an Emperor, 1777-1801

1 Monsieur Alexander and Catherine the Great 13

2 "The Monarch-in-Training" 23

3 A Grand Duke Torn Between Greater and Lesser Courts 43

4 The Tsarevich at Paul I's Court: 1796-1801 67

Part 2 The Promising Reign: A Spirit of Reform, 1801-1807

5 Reformist Attempts 87

6 Reforming Program: 1801-1805 113

7 On the International Stage: 1801-1805 137

Part 3 The Napoleonic Wars, 1805-1815

8 From Military Fiascos to the Tilsit Agreements: 1805-1807 161

9 The Time of the French Alliance: 1807-1812 187

10 Between Domestic Reforms and Military Preparations: 1807-1812 212

11 1812: The Duel of the Emperors 233

12 A European Tsar: 1813-1815 258

Part 4 An Increasingly Conservative Reign, 1815-1825

13 Mystic Exaltation, Reformist Aspiration, and Conservative Practice: 1815-1820 297

14 Russian Diplomacy in the "European System": 1815-1825 328

15 Twilight: 1820-1825 348

By Way of Epilogue: The Feodor Kuzmich Mystery 381

Notes 387

Bibliography 421

Index 435

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